Council vote continues BRA powers — The Boston Globe, 12/16/04

By Heather Allen and Andrea Estes

The City Council voted yesterday to extend the Boston Redevelopment Authority's urban renewal powers until 2015, allowing the agency to continue using eminent domain in private development projects.

In voting 8-4 to extend the BRA's powers, the council won more oversight over the agency, which agreed to give the council 30 days notice on all large city-owned eminent domain projects and to seek council approval on some development activities.

The vote also ends a year and a half of debate with the council, culminating yesterday in a meeting that dragged well into the evening, as lawyers haggled over the final agreement.

"Did we get everything we wanted? Probably not," said Councilor John Tobin. "I don't think the BRA did either. We're not looking to do the BRA's job. We wanted transparency, better communications, and a seat at the table. That's what we got."

According to the measure approved yesterday, an annual report must be submitted from the BRA to the council. Although the council cannot veto an eminent domain proposal, some councilors said yesterday that the notification adds a level of transparency not available to the public before.

A requirement that the BRA notify the council of major changes in the city's urban renewal plans is a dramatic concession, several councilors said. Now, the BRA will be required to inform the council when it takes large parcels of public land by eminent domain.

Samuel Tyler, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, said the BRA is "not giving up any of its authority to act as a development body for the City of Boston."

The Boston Globe: www.boston.com/news/globe